Back to the Art World

It has been a while since I have blogged. Life has gotten in the way of drawing and painting, as we all know it can do. But now that I 'm back at it, I want to share what I am doing, and what I am seeing of others' work as well.

One of the things I love to paint is faces. But for me painting portraits is really hard work, something I have never mastered. But now I have the chance to learn this skill with a respected instructor and painter, Kerry Dunn. So, I will be sharing with you my travels as I learn to paint people, and eventually people in their environment. I am going to be using artificial light at least at first and probably for a long time. I will try to explain my process: gesture, block-in grisaille of the shadows (and hence the light) of the composition, add a number of values to the lights,  consider warm and cool colors,  and consider reflected light. It's a lot! But today I am only going to spend a little time on process.

Female portrait painting by Judith St. Ledger-Roty, oil painting.
Female portrait painting by Judith St. Ledger-Roty, oil painting.

With this beginning painting of a female model, I wanted to take color out of the equation by starting with a limited palette, and the instructor agreed. That means I had just a few colors on my palette. These included a warm and cool red, cadmium orange, viridian, ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. I started the gesture with a long line of thin burnt sienna traveling along the outside of the model's face and shadow (as I saw it on the canvas) and through the bottom of the canvas. I next ran a diagonal line from the left side of the canvas where her hair goes off the canvas and then ran that line through the chin.

Those two intersecting lines gave me enough to see the relationship of the head to the shoulder. I added more lines until I had the center line of the model's head, and lined up the tilt of the head and the features with a corresponding tilt. Only once I had that series of lines generally in place did I begin to draw in the shadows of the face and behind the hair and under the chin. Overall there weren't many shadows in the face area, so real work on that began in the lights.

This is the finished alla prima portrait. (I have learned that when I am painting at home, and have limited funds for models, the painting is finished when the model session is finished!) In this case, I had about three hours to paint the model. I like the attitude of the end result, although I say that in the hopes that I will improve as I do more of these. I am glad that I was able to capture the head/shoulder relationship, and that the pose was not a straight on, frontal pose. I also think the relationship between the lights and shadows of the head work well  together. The shadow is about the right value in relationship to the strong light on her face. In terms of improvement, there are lots of things I could mention. But I think a big thing is the need to do more with the values in the light of the face. I stayed in the light to mid-range of values too much, and didn't add enough darks, so the planes of the face are not as apparent as they need to be.  I need more variety in brush strokes as well.

Portrait of male figure by Judith St. Ledger-Roty, oil painting.
Portrait of male figure by Judith St. Ledger-Roty, oil painting.

For the second painting of the male figure, I tried to work on the structure of the head, light and shadow, and the values in the light. This one is more successful than the first. The structure is blocked in well overall but the head may be too long: the chin is too long or the nose is too short. Oh, well! But the values in the face are improved though the paint could still go thicker for the highlights. But overall I am pleased with the progress in a short period of time. 

More progress to come, I hope. Wish me luck! 

Happy painting!


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